Massimo Luciani

Mission on Minerva by James P. Hogan

The novel “Mission to Minerva” by James P. Hogan was published for the first time in 2005. It’s the fifth and last book of the Giants series and follows “Entoverse”.

Victor Hunt has seen it all during the years in which he worked with the Ganymeans, then with the Thuriens and ending up in what was revealed as a Jevlenese plot. However, when he gets contacted by himself, even he is surprised because it’s an alternative version of Hunt who wants to give him a warning.

Once again, Victor Hunt collaborates with the Thuriens to try to solve the mystery of the parallel universes. The experiments start causing strange effects that must be understood, also because the further possibility of traveling in time could allow to shed light on another mystery that concerns the remote past of the planet Minerva.

One of the heated plots at the Harvard Forest (Photo courtesy Jeff Blanchard. All rights reserved)

An article published in the journal “Nature Communications” reports the discovery of giant viruses in a forest soil ecosystem. Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Joint Genome Institute (JGI) and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst (UMass Amherst) discovered 16 new giant viruses and described their genome. A genomic analysis on their capsid, the protein structure that contains DNA or RNA of a virus, indicates a genetic diversity of giant viruses still unknown.

Lisowicia bojani skeleton (Image courtesy Tomasz Sulej. All rights reserved)

An article published in the journal “Science” reports the description of Lisowicia bojani, an animal belonging to the group of dicynodonts that lived in today’s Poland during the Upper Triassic period. Tomasz Sulej of the Institute of Paleobiology of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Grzegorz Niedzwiedzki of the Department of Organismal Biology of the Swedish University of Uppsala studied this elephant-sized animal that contradicts the idea that at the time big herbivores were all dinosaurs.

Spider and Jeanne Robinson in 2004 (Photo C. A. Bridges)

Spider Robinson was born on November 24, 1948 in the Bronx, New York City, New York, USA. His career as a science fiction writer began in 1973, with the publication of the short story “The Guy with the Eyes” in the magazine “Analog Science Fiction”, the first set in a fictional universe which includes the Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon. The author wrote other stories that have that place in common: the first ones were collected in the anthology “Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon” in 1977.

The 1976 the novella “By Any Other Name” won the Hugo Award and was expanded in the novel “Telempath”, published in 1977, set in a dystopian future in which civilization is in ruins. Spider Robinson did even better with the 1977 novella, written with his wife, which won the Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards and became the first part of a novel with the same title published in 1978. In the following years the couple published the two sequels “Starseed” (1991) and “Starmind” (1995).

In 2001 Spider Robinson published “The Free Lunch”, inspired by Robert A. Heinlein’s juveniles, so much so that the title is a reference to his famous phrase “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”. The inspiration is even greater in his 2006 novel “Variable Star”, since it was developed from a 7-page outline for a novel written by Heinlein in 1955.

Macrocollum itaquii is the oldest long-necked dinosaur discovered so far

An article published in the journal “Biology Letters” describes the discovery of a dinosaur of the sauropodomorph group that lived in today’s Brazil in the Late Triassic period, about 225 million years ago. Rodrigo Temp Müller and Sérgio Dias-da-Silva of the Universidade Federal de Santa Maria together with Max Cardoso Langer of the Universidade de São Paulo discovered an ancestor of the famous giant long-necked dinosaurs, which was named Macrocollum itaquii. It’s a useful discovery to clarify the evolution of that group of herbivorous dinosaurs.